Wednesday, April 2, 2008


Today was the first official day of CTIA WIRELESS, which takes place until April 3. Attending for the first time, my initial expectation was that I'd see a moderate selection of booths, many of which would be at the enterprise and developer level rather than the consumer and retail area. Boy, was I wrong on both accounts. CTIA WIRELESS occupies both North and Central halls in the Las Vegas Convention Centre, making it bigger than even the annual PMA photo industry show, which typically just fills South hall. In terms of applicability, a quick run through of the show floor brought forth the realization that there are a lot more companies that fit the consumer and retail audience than we thought. And a trip up 180-feet in the air to demo a new product (nope, I'm not kidding) put the icing on the cake that proved to me that the wireless folks really mean business.

I felt pretty patriotic when, immediately upon entering North hall, I was stopped in my tracks by an oversized red-and-white display with signage that read: "Canada". Hmm, I guess I should take a look! There I found, among many other companies, Ancaster, ON-based Solutions in Motion (SIM), which makes the neat BlackBerry Digital Pen, which we covered on our sister Websites when it originally launched late last year. This neat pen lets you handwrite notes on a special pad of paper, then converts them into digital text that's sent as an SMS to your BlackBerry. From there, you can do things like e-mail the note to a friend or colleague, or save it to the device. I had never tried out the Digital Pen live, so it was neat to get the opportunity to do that. Although it's accuracy on my one try wasn't 100%, you can edit notes on the phone once they've arrived; and it really is a neat way to jot down information, and create an automatic digital copy of it.

Moving on and throughout the show, it was apparent that tracking software, asset management, and RFID via mobile devices is a burgeoning market. Basically, such technologies help companies better manage inventory, installation professionals, delivery trucks, and such by being able to track, and keep a live log of data. Stay tuned to the next issue of Marketnews Magazine for more information on some neat companies offering such services in Canada.

Bluetooth headsets are, of course, all over the place. The trend seems to be toward designs like Jabra's BT8040 (reviewed in the February 2008 issue of here's how! magazine) that fit in your ear, and forego a hook altogether. This sounds like it might be uncomfortable or unsecure, but many companies use advanced rubber pieces in varying sizes that make the fit perfect. And, of course small, sleek, and sexy devices are all the rage. I haven't yet seen as many Bluetooth speakerphones as I expected to see, even though I think this category makes so much sense. "Sales guys often times don't understand Bluetooth speakerphones, and so they have a hard time explaining their benefits to customers," said a rep from Jabra. He also noted that California and Washington would be implementing new laws this summer that will require a Bluetooth device be used at all times when driving. Once these laws come into effect (not to mention that similar laws have already come into effect in Quebec and Nova Scotia), sales of Bluetooth speakerphones (and Bluetooth devices, period) will likely skyrocket.

After hours of walking the show, it was time to head off to the second intimate press event (the first was last night), which was held in the Bellagio Hotel. Here, navigation seemed to be a big focus. One stand-out product was the Garmin nuvifone. Set for Canadian availability in Q3, this device, which was kept under wraps in a glass dome, is sort of like a portable navigation device first, and a 3G mobile phone second. Using HSDPA data connectivity (which means it will likely be available through Rogers Wireless, although this hasn't actually been confirmed), the nuvifone acts as a phone, navigation unit, and Internet browser. The device has a generous touch-screen, and can also play back music and videos, and even take 3 MP images. In my eyes, the nuvifone clearly represents where the industry is going: if your portable device isn't a phone, you'd better add phone functionality. And if your phone is just a phone, you need to start looking at some advanced secondary functions, like navigation and music playback.

Another company that stood out was Miami, Fl-based BlueDasher Technologies, who introduced themselves to us by announcing that it was their "birthday". The brand spanking new company is adding a new twist to navigation by providing street-level photography of streets all across the U.S. (Canada and Europe coming in future) so that mobile phone and PC users can not only find out how to get to a destination and navigate to it via a map, but also see the roads as they actually look in full 360-degree rotation, complete with surroundings, road signs, trees, etc. How do they do it? The company sends vehicles out on the road to capture photos every 10 feet. The technology could be especially useful for those in the real estate market, but there are other viable situations as well. For example, a company rep noted that one could consult the images to find out exactly where a restaurant's parking lot is; or a couple with kids could easily look for housing close to a school. To demonstrate the way it works, BlueDasher typed in the address of my vacation spot in their hometown of Miami, and instantly, there it was. Neat!

Flash memory leader SanDisk really summed up the essence of the show by explaining why the company views the wireless industry as one of its primary drivers going forward. SanDisk's current campaign centres around the idea that we need to "wake up" our phones and use them to the max of their capabilities. So much content can be placed onto a mobile device, and with 8 GB microSD cards already on the market, SanDisk is making sure that, as more and more functionality becomes available, it can in turn be supported by flash (and even embedded) memory. As more and more people bring their phones out of perpetual slumber, we'll only see advancements in the category become greater.

After today, I see that there's more ground to be covered at CTIA than I could ever have imagined. It will be interesting to see what tomorrow brings. As for my comment earlier about being 180-feet up in the air, well, you'll have to stay tuned for our video footage to find out more! Visit or to see what went down. You'll also find video demonstrations of various products introduced at the show, including those mentioned here.

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